A local golfer is one step away from getting a shot at playing on one of professional golf's biggest stages.

Anthony Imburgia, a 22-year-old Effingham St. Anthony graduate and current member of Eastern Illinois University's mens' golf team, will be at Canoe Brook Country Club in Summit, N.J. Monday taking part in a 36-hole sectional qualifier for the US Open Championship at Winged Foot Golf Course in Mamaroneck, N.Y.

Imburgia qualified for one of 15 sectional tournaments across the country by entering a regional qualifier at Illini Country Club, one of 111 qualifying tournaments in the United States.

He shot a one-under 70 in his round, and finished in fourth place by just one stroke. Three golfers from the field of about 75, moved on and Imburgia claimed the first alternate's position should someone drop out of the sectional field.

That's exactly what happened, and now Imburgia will be on a flight today to New Jersey to compete as an amateur against 152 other golfers, mostly lesser-known touring pros, for one of a tentative 18 spots in one of professional golf's four major tournaments.

"I was disappointed," said Imburgia of his regional showing. "I played well and missed by one stroke."

That disappointment quickly turned into elation when he learned that he'd be at sectionals anyway. Now he has to deal with the excitement, not to mention nerves, involved with playing against so many pros on a big stage.

"It's going to be exciting," said Imburgia. "I'm sure I'll be nervous, but hopefully I won't ask for too many autographs and just play my game.

"Honestly I just want to play as well as I can," Imburgia continued. "But I want to play at the Open. If I can grab a spot and play at a major, it would be a life-changing experience."

Imburgia will play his final season at EIU next year alongside his twin brothers, juniors Mike and Matt, and his sister Katie, who will be joining the womens' team.

He played his freshman year at Mercer University in Macon Georgia, but elected to transfer to Eastern to play with his siblings. In order to qualify for regional play, Imburgia had to have a minimum handicap of 1.4.

This wasn't the first time that Imburgia had done well at regionals, either. Last year Imburgia missed the alternate's position by a single stroke, and he felt it was helpful in this year's competition.

"The good thing was that I knew a lot of the guys," Imburgia said of his latest regional. "I wasn't as nervous at the regional as I will be at the sectional."

He says that his nerves will be fueled by the hoopla surrounding his particular sectional.

The 16-year-old sensation Michelle Wie will be at Canoe Brook trying to become the first woman in history to qualify for the US Open Championship by winning a sectional.

Add to the mix that well-known pros Mark O'Meara, Billy Andrade and J.P. Hayes will be there to compete as well, and Imburgia admits he may be a bit starstruck.

"The thing I'm most concerned about is the media coverage," said Imburgia. "It's supposed to be crazy there."

And what if he does move on?

"To be honest, I think I'd be in awe," Imburgia said of the prospect of playing in the Open. "I've always dreamed of being a PGA golfer, but to jump straight to a major would just be crazy."

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